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Why doctors should never stop accepting new patients

It’s not advisable for doctors to close their doors to new patients — even if they’re fully booked day-in and day-out.

If you’re seeing an uptick in the number of new patients at your practice, this might be the new normal. The U.S. could experience a shortage of up to 120,000 physicians by 2030, according to a 2018 report published by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by an influx in patients is normal, but try to take it in stride. Read on to discover why the best patient acquisition strategy doesn’t stop — and how to effectively manage the larger workload.

3 reasons doctors shouldn’t close their doors to new patients

1. Patient volume fluctuates

You’re a fantastic doctor, but even the best providers experience attrition. Accepting new patients at all times helps keep your patient roster at a healthy level, so your practice remains profitable. Sure, this might mean you have a higher volume of patients during busy periods, but it will level out in the long term.

Related: How providers can manage patient surges

2. It’s bad for business

When people find a doctor they like, they want to refer family members and friends. If you stop accepting new patients, this is a problem that will arise. You’ll have to decide whether to give preferential treatment to some or turn away everyone across the board. Either approach will cause problems that could easily result in losing existing patients to providers willing to treat their loved ones.

3. Temporary closures cause uncertainty

Unless you’re retiring from medicine, a ban on new patients is never permanent. This makes it hard for other doctors, insurers, and existing patients to keep track of your current status. Your fellow physicians could stop referring you, because they won’t want to recommend a provider who might be unavailable to someone who needs medical attention now. It’s much easier for everyone to suggest a doctor who takes an always-open approach to patient acquisition.

Check out: When and how to refer patients to a fellow physician

How to best handle lots of patients

Give patients more control

Everyone wins when you make the patient experience more interactive, effectively streamlining operations to accommodate more patients. According to an article on Advisory Board, 81 percent of patients would schedule a doctor’s appointment online if they could, and 40 percent of patients would consider switching providers for online access. Plus, our research shows 26 percent of appointments scheduled were for the same day or next day, making it easy for both new and longtime patients to fill up empty time slots.

Providing intake forms in advance also cuts down on waiting time and subsequent delays. When new patients are able to complete paperwork in advance, they arrive ready to see the doctor.

Automate routine office tasks

A larger number of patients doesn’t have to put a strain on your staff. Some tasks always require a personal touch, but appointment confirmations and reminders don’t fall into this category.

Automating this process allows your staff to review text confirmations in a matter of minutes, effectively adding hours back into their day. This gives them more time to focus on new patients, while reducing late arrivals, no-shows, and cancellations.

Read: How to automate appointment reminders and routine practice tasks

Enhance your EMR

Effectively treating a higher volume of patients requires increased efficiency. Simplify your practice by integrating your EMR/EHR system with software that will help you provide an elevated quality of care.

This can save time by reducing redundancy and making it easier to access patient data. When all the right information is at your fingertips, you can spend more quality time with patients, thus increasing satisfaction levels.

Offer shared appointments

A more innovative way to manage patient acquisition, shared medical appointments allow you to treat several patients at once. In this type of setting, people experiencing similar health concerns are grouped together to ask questions, share concerns, and receive guidance.

The Cleveland Clinic has been using this approach since 1999, and currently offers more than 200 SMAs. This is an effective way to see patients faster and offers the added bonus of helping people with similar conditions connect with one another.

Look: 5 ideas to make your healthcare practice more efficient

Accepting new patients isn’t something you should have to think about. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by an influx of patients, take this opportunity to streamline your practice, so you’re able to welcome everyone who comes knocking at your door.

For more tips on running a successful practice, check out the blog post “What private healthcare practices can learn from urgent care centers.”

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